BMC Productions

red vs arri camera

A Brief Simple Overview of RED and ARRI

RED vs ARRI has been a repetitive ongoing debate with filmmakers about which is better; at times its been a really ego driven argument with both sides convinced that their preferred camera is better. The RED vs ARRI debate makes us think about how we look at making films – and that’s a good thing.

As digital technology advances, so do the implications of high resolution and dynamic range.

ARRI has a reputation for at least coming close to film in this way with the Alexa’s 14 stops. In the ARRI world, dynamic range is one of the calling cards of a filmic image, resolution is secondary.

RED has a combination of both filmic and high resolution.

Other than the ARRI 65 that shoots 6K, ARRI’s other flagship cameras can barely shoot 4K / 3.2K up-scaled. Resolution matters, but only so much. RED, is constantly pushing the limits of resolution.

RED brought us to 6K with the Epic Dragon, within a couple of years, they announced an 8K sensor introducing the Dragon 8K and the Helium Super35 8K. It’s harder to keep up with RED updates than it is for ARRI, audiences aren’t exactly screaming for 6K or 8K entertainment, the streaming services offer 4K as a premium with the introduction of 4K televisions.

There are productions that benefit from high resolutions (CGI driven productions) the main benefits are flexibility in post-production. Cropping and digital zooming from an 8K image to a 4K image is pretty amazing. With a high resolution, filmmakers can change their images in post-production which is quickly becoming the standard in post-production, creative freedom that high resolutions provide in post is unprecedented. A director working with a 6K or 8K sensor can treat the production process very differently if they are saving certain creative decisions for post, the reframing and repositioning within the frame during post-production presents a radically new way to look at filmmaking.

ARRI is a little different. Do you still have the same amount of freedom to alter your project in post as with the RED’s?  Simple answer is no, ARRI’s up-sampled 3.2K to 4K still limits you.

ARRI’s are very filmic, which is their standout feature. Shooting ARRI allows you to have a more filmic look in a workable digital form straight out of the camera.Where RED is more modular.

RED wants filmmakers to use their camera bodies in new ways, digital technology has created opportunities, which RED has kept in mind and encourages. ARRI embraces those freedoms, but frames them in a more traditional manner.

ARRI provides inbuilt solutions for certain things that RED might only offer via menu interface. ARRI’s reputation is built around the idea that the camera will perform flawlessly and with ease to the user.

On the other hand modular cameras give DPs more choices to build their setups around things like, motion, weight and budget. The brain of your camera is going to capture an image that you can manipulate in so many different ways.

RED’s modularity has its own problems and has been at times less than stellar on the reliability front, in contrasts with ARRI’s workhorse reputation. If you’re paying more to shoot ARRI, it had better be reliable. RED has been able to rectify their issues over the past couple of years bring it up to par with ARRI.

Differences in resolution and modularity don’t mean very much if the result is still a great image. ARRI has the reputation for being the standard in the business, but I think RED gets undersold in these conversations. ARRI’s reputation is boosted by DPs for generations have seen its value, and that’s not always the case with RED. There’s a new generation of RED users that are delivering equally filmic images. RED also has an incredibly high frame rate, which ARRI can’t match at present.

The bigger debate is the resolution, when you shoot on an ARRI at 3.2K then upscaled in-camera to 4K looks just as good as 4K from the Helium, which technically it shouldn’t, but it does. There isn’t much in it.

The RED and ARRI, while accomplishing approximately the same amazing feat of creating clean, VERY low noise, pictures in low light conditions, they work slightly differently.

The RED still has a chip that’s basically rated at 320 ASA, but you can underexpose it in extreme ways with only very little noise.

Shooting ARRI or RED, add some Master Primes and you can blow them away with the quality of either camera’s images. Both cameras deliver when it comes to cinematic feel.

ARRI has a chip rated at 800 ASA. But even with that starting point, it’s possible to underexpose with only a little loss.

RED footage is recorded on CF cards, at a data rate of 42MB/sec.

ARRI footage was recorded on CODEX portable machines. The CODEX records on little removable hard disc RAIDs with a capacity of up to 5 hours.

RED records to their own RED RAW format, which is currently only supported by redcineX software, but is being implemented by other software packages, such as Digital Fusion and Baselight.

ARRI output a 4:4:4 dual-HD-SDI stream at 1920×1080 resolution, which can be recorded by any HD recorder. The CODEX used, creates internal their own JPG2000 file. In terms of file size, the Redraw 42 and JPG2000 are very similar. JPG2000 is a 1:4 compression, so about 2MB frame. The Redraw comes to about 1.75MB frame.

So, it turns out that both cameras, in terms of performance of the chip, are very similar.

This is an amazing time to be a filmmaker. Can the RED vs ARRI debate ever be solved?

Is one more superior to the other?

I don’t think so, it really comes down to the director’s personal preference and the look and feel they are looking for.

Both these cameras can do what you can’t accomplish with any film stock, not in your wildest dreams.

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